General Shinseki’s departure is unlikely to solve Veteran Affair’s broader problems — a bloated bureaucracy that has been taught, over time, to hide its problems from Washington.
The festering problem predates the Obama administration. No decisive action has been taken and President Obama continues to remain distant and aloof, periodically feigning outrage when the media reports frustrating delays encountered by veterans desperately seeking help. Even the high suicide rate of returning soldiers, haunted by the demons of war, failed to precipitate much action. Layers of management grew in proportion to the growing patient load — it currently stands at a staggering 12-level chain of command all the way to the bottom, where the schedulers are assigned the critical tasks of matching veterans with the medical help they are seeking. That’s where the books were cooked — many appointments were simply deleted. Bonuses were awarded if the numbers looked good. The few employees burdened with a moral conscience were threatened with dismissal.
This follows President Obama’s war on whistle-blowers, including the New York Times reporter, James Risen. Senior officials at VA had little interest in their subordinate’s failings and felt safe behind the shield of “plausible deniability.” Other government departments suffer from the same inertia problems, most notably the department of Homeland Security and the Defense Intelligence Agency. What is also largely ignored is the failure to hold accountable those high government officials who made hasty decisions to send these young men and women to suffer the horrors of war.